President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has described calls for the country to negotiate with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) as “utter nonsense.”
Speaking on Monday at the Rwanda Military Academy (Nyakinama) in the northern part of the country where he was attending a graduation ceremony of 45 officers, President Kagame said:
“I kept quiet about this because of the contempt I have for it. I thought it was utter nonsense. Maybe it was due to ignorance but if this is an ideological problem for anyone to be thinking this way, then it better stay with those who have it.
"We will have another time to deal with this. As Rwandans, being who we are, achieving what we want to achieve for ourselves is not a myth, its real”.
The call to talk to FDLR was made by Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete at a meeting of Heads of State from the Great Lakes Region in Addis Ababa, on the sidelines of last month’s African Union Summit in Ethiopia.
Kikwete’s remarks have soured the already shaky relations between the two neighbouring countries with foreign affairs ministers from both countries issuing statements.
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Kikwete had suggested that Rwanda should consider direct talks with the FDLR rebels since the military option didn’t seem to be working.
President Kikwete also urged Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to talk to the Allied Democratic Forces and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda, as well as asking DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila to talk to the M23 rebels and other forces operating in eastern Congo.
This is the first time President Kagame is personally responding to President Kikwete’s remarks even though both presidents attended the Addis Ababa meeting.
Tanzania has said it is not going to apologise to Kigali over the statements.
The remarks have triggered a diplomatic row between the two countries although observers say it is a pointer to the fact that despite the cordial relationships, Presidents Kagame and Kikwete have never been friends.
The FDLR is a sensitive issue in Kigali because of the former’s role in the 1994 genocide as well as its continued security threat to Rwanda. The militia draws most of its members from the genocidaires who participated in the 1994 mass killings.